Ameer Shash | Staff Writer
Featured image courtesy of Jordan Chu, Photo/Video Editor
It was a near-annual pilgrimage back to her native homeland of Sylhet, Bangladesh. Nanjeeba Chowdhury-Mohammad had been waiting to meet with family and partake in cultural ceremonies and gatherings. Although Sylhet’s economy has been thriving in recent years due to its production of gas and tea for all of Bangladesh, its residents continued to persevere through difficult living conditions. Many of the people living in Sylhet are elderly and are stricken with illnesses that make life debilitating.
Nanjeeba says everything feels different than what it is in Canada — a lot more “hustle and rush.”
Grime and dirt-stained cars and lorries dangerously weaved through traffic. Run-down buildings and services in the village is a byproduct of the crippling economy. Merchants and business owners nearby try to keep their head above water to sustain their family. The demise of a notorious, poverty-stricken community being illuminated by the cultural preservation that still exists.
Nanjeeba’s experience, for the most part, is consistent with mine when I had travelled to Harar, Ethiopia in 2007. The city of Harar is walled with notable features of the region being its homes that are built from stone and wildlife (specifically hyenas). During my first visit, I recall seeing merchants scattering the streets on the hard rock surface selling their fresh produce and clothing in desperation to survive.
Though I have only travelled back home once, I remember trying to immerse myself with how life was lived there. Doing so forces you to wonder about all of the first-world luxuries you take for granted: a nice bed to sleep on, a lack of nuisance-causing mosquitoes, a free healthcare system, a transit system that gets you places without compromising your safety, and a lack of air raid sirens. When we go back to our homeland, we say our hellos, stay a while for leisure, and just leave without so much as lending a helping hand once we leave.
Humanitarian agencies identify many nations, like both Ethiopia and Bangladesh, as underdeveloped or developing. Most of all, these countries are in need of relief from famine, war, water contamination, disease, and deplorable living conditions.
You have seen the campaigning and programming time and time again: starved and traumatized children shedding tears in front of a camera. So although we as immigrants have the privilege of living in Canada now, we cannot forget our roots.
Be it donating to non-profit organizations, volunteering with programs or volunteering abroad, donating clothes back home during leisure visits, donating insecticide-treated bed nets, sponsoring a child, or directly contributing to education reform, the smallest of sacrifices will make all the difference.
In hopes of reshaping and restructuring people’s lives in these nations, merely a small amount of time out of our days is required. After all, it is a delegation and duty that we do our part in contributing to our motherlands, as to show we are not abandoning them.